Interview with Gena Showalter - Writing What You Know VS. Knowing What You Write by Nephele Tempest
The Knight Agency Newsletter: Write. Read. Repeat.

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Top Announcements

» Nalini Singh's ROCK ADDICTION was selected as a Romantic Times top pick, and rose to #4 on Apple’s Contemporary bestsellers list, #9 on Barnes & Noble, and #13 on the Amazon's Contemporary Romance bestsellers list.

» STUPID GIRL, by Cindy Miles, landed at #3 on Publisher Weekly's iBooks bestsellers list in Romance and #9 overall.

Top Sales

» Shirlee McCoy's HOME SWEET HOME, to John Scognamiglio at Kensington, in a three-book deal by Melissa Jeglinski.
» Tracy Solheim's SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, to Cindy Hwang at Berkley, by Melissa Jeglinski

In this issue

» Ask Deidre

» The Informer

» Agents of the Roundtable

» Sales Roundup

» Agency News

» Author Interview

» Author Tip of the Month

» New Releases

Ask Deidre

Every month, Deidre Knight picks a question submitted by Twitter and Facebook users. The person who submitted the chosen question will win any two books of his or her choice from this page. To submit your question, simply post it on Twitter with the hashtag #AskDeidre.

And now for this month's winning question ...

When you are assessing a prospective client, how important is his or her online presence in making your final decision?

I certainly poke around online, to get a sense of who that author is and of their ability to engage on social media. I do mean engage, versus simply post a never-ending carousel of promotion. I like to see that an author understands that being social is about connection, and that the writer has an understanding (even if just a budding one) of how that works. Of course I’d love to see that writer having a hundred thousand followers, but honestly, I prefer even more to see a smaller number that represents true engagement. And, of course, that the writer understands one platform particularly well, whether that be Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, etc. What I mean is this: every writer winds up migrating to one platform more than another. For me, as an example, I just love Twitter. It’s been a great fit for me—the short little updates, the conversational back and forth, the breezy pace. I don’t fit as well on Facebook, although I’m working on improving there.

Now, more to the actual question, I wouldn’t ever pass on a writer because they have a limited social presence. I can help them build a robust one. But it can positively influence my choice if I discover that the author has already built a robust online footprint, just as it can be a turn-off to discover a nest of ranty blogs by the same author!
The Informer

Writing What You Know vs. Knowing What You Write

One of the most common pieces of advice handed down to writers—particularly those just starting out—is “write what you know.” It’s not bad advice on its own, but it frequently gets a bad rap. People are quick to point out how limiting such a rule can be, particularly for anyone intent on writing science fiction or fantasy stories. How many writers, after all, truly know what it’s like to rocket across the galaxy in a space ship? Who has personal experience fighting off a dragon? Even with more mainstream fiction, you can see the problem. Must you wait for your spouse to die before you can write about a character experiencing such a loss?

For me, the difficulty comes not with the advice itself but in the literal interpretation. Of course you don’t need to limit your writing to your personal experiences, or to subjects on which you’re already an expert. Focus on what you find interesting or compelling, or what has you curious, and then get to know about that subject. Fill in the blanks in your knowledge so you can do the subject justice when you sit down to write. Or, if it’s a topic that requires you to flex your imagination, make sure you research around the subject’s fringes so your imaginings feel authentic. Tolkien’s Middle Earth may be populated by imagined people and creatures, but it feels real because he applied familiar details to the world they inhabit; he described the nature and the geography, created maps to trace the Fellowship’s journey, and used his knowledge and interest in linguistics to invent entire languages for the different races. So, read up on some astronauts and their experiences with space travel. Learn about various lizards and birds and dinosaurs and see what facts about their anatomy might apply to your dragon.

When it comes to writing about what you know, emotions can be similar across different experiences. Just because you’ve never lost a spouse doesn’t mean you haven’t lost someone you loved—a parent or grandparent, maybe a close friend. You can read accounts from people who have suffered the death of a significant other, but you can also empathize on a different level over the general loss of a loved one. How did it feel? What were your reactions? Can you imagine the differences and the similarities between your experience and the one you’re crafting for your character?

Writing is a creative endeavor, and by its very nature requires you to create as you go. If you limit yourself to writing only about the current contents of your brain, you will do yourself—and your readers—a disservice. The key is to use your own knowledge as a jumping-off point. Tap into your experiences and emotions and mine those for your work, of course, but don’t discount the ideas that stem from what you wish to learn, from the fleeting thoughts that require you to do some digging. Expanding your world is half the fun of writing, so stay open to inspiration and the opportunity to discover something new. If you don’t know about your subject when the idea first sparks, you will by the time you finish your final draft.

Agents of the Roundtable

Question: What overused phrases or ideas do you wish writers would refrain from using in their submissions?

PAMELA HARTY: It’s always a turn off when I get a query from an author who promises to be the next New York Times bestseller and that I would be a fool to not take on their project. I am all for feeling confident about one’s work, but this always makes me want to run the other way.

It’s so funny you should ask. I just did a presentation on When is it YA? for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers where I did a little rant on the words “coming of age.” We’re all constantly growing, changing, becoming more ourselves…more self-actualized, to use a pop-psych term. All good books are to an extent about coming of age—your protagonists discovering something new about themselves, crossing another hurdle, reaching the next level of their own evolution. So, I hate to say it, but to me “coming of age” means that nothing else happens in the story, that it’s all focused on this one element that’s intrinsic to everything. It might be unfair, but hey, you asked!  (BTW, anyone who wants to can read the When is it YA? post, though of course you’ll miss out on the comments that came up in the Q&A at the conference.)

MELISSA JEGLINSKI: I wish writers would stay away from all three of these openings:

  • Characters walking or driving to the location where the action is going to start. Why not already be there, in the midst of everything so the opening is more exciting?
  • The waking from a dream or nightmare. Let us figure out what the main character’s fears are in more interesting ways than by experiencing things that aren’t real.
  • Speaking to a tombstone in a cemetery scene. It’s just a downer of a start, and I’d rather experience a conversation with two live characters.
Sales Roundup

» Ginger Garrett's THE LAST MONSTER, to Krista Vitola at Delacorte for publication in Spring 2016, by Melissa Jeglinski.

» German rights to NYT bestselling author Nalini Singh's ROCK ADDICTION, by Kathrin Nehm of Thomas Schlueck Agency on behalf of Elaine Spencer.

» Shirlee McCoy's HOME SWEET HOME, to John Scognamiglio at Kensington in a three-book deal, by Melissa Jeglinski.
» Tracy Solheim's SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, to Cindy Hwang at Berkley, by Melissa Jeglinski.

Sales Roundup is a selective sampling of TKA's deals for the past month. For more info on our recent sales, visit
Agency News
» Nalini Singh's ROCK ADDICTION was selected as a Romantic Times top pick, and rose to #4 on Apple’s Contemporary bestsellers list, #9 on Barnes & Noble, and #13 on the Amazon Contemporary Romance bestsellers list.

» Gena Showalter's THE DARKEST TOUCH has been chosen by Bookish/Zola for their fall previews.
» Lucienne Diver spent some time at the RWA (Romance Writers of Australia)  conference, meeting with clients, editors, and koala bears.

» STUPID GIRL, by Cindy Miles, landed at #3 on Publisher Weekly's iBooks bestsellers list in Romance and #9 overall.

» Tracy Solheim and Kim Lowe discussed romance novels, including Shirley Jump's THE SWEETHEART SECRET, in USA Today's Happy Ever After.

» Christi Barth's UP TO ME received a great review from Library Journal.

» Cara Lockwood's BOYS AND TOYS has been chosen as one of three titles for BEST MEN, a three-in-one collection from Cosmo Red-Hot Reads.

» The first look at STILLWATER RISING, by Steena Holmes, will be included in next week's Shape Magazine Fall Book Guide.
Interview with Gena Showalter

Gena Showalter is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of the White Rabbit Chronicles, Otherworld Assassins, Angels of the Dark, Lords of the Underworld, and several other young adult and adult romance series. She has written over thirty novels and novellas.

Gena’s works have appeared in Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazine, and have been translated into numerous languages. Critics have called her books "sizzling page-turners" and "utterly spellbinding stories." 
TKA: Where did you first get the idea for the White Rabbit Chronicles, and how did you come up with the name?

Gena: Ideas come to me in all kinds of ways. Something I see or hear can inspire an entire novel.  A few books sprang from dreams I had. One came from a conversation I had with best friend and fellow author Jill Monroe. But this one...well, everything grew from the title ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND.
While Alice from the famous Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland falls down a rabbit hole and enters a whole new world, I decided to have my Ali fall into a pit of despair when her entire family dies in a car crash.  She wakes up to find out that a new kind of zombie inhabits the world she once thought she knew.
TKA: Did anything in your planned direction of QUEEN OF ZOMBIE HEARTS surprise you and take the story to a place you weren't expecting?

Gena: To be honest, I didn’t actually have much of a plan. I wrote the first book with only a vague idea of where I was headed. Girl realizes zombies are real, falls for boy who kills zombies, learns to kill zombies herself, romance, all while trying to twist different aspects of Alice in Wonderland, then…the end. I had a better idea with book two—mirror images come to life, zombie wars, secrets among friends, problems with the romance—and then absolutely ZERO idea with book three—uh, more zombies? I knew I had to tie up all the threads I’d left dangling in the first two books, and ended up brainstorming with my editor about how exactly to do that.

The end result thrilled me. Do I enjoy torturing my characters? Yes. This book is proof. Did I smile more while writing this book than ever before? Definitely. And not just because of the torture. Some of the things that come out of the mouths of my characters... I’m smiling now! Basically, snark happens.

TKA: How does writing young adult compare with writing paranormal and contemporary romance?

Gena: My process for each genre is pretty much the same. I do my best to create fully realized characters, plot twists, big reveals, action, and my personal favorite, the sizzle between the hero and heroine.

TKA: Out of all the characters you've ever created, who would you most enjoy spending a weekend with and why?

Gena: Cole Holland from QUEEN OF ZOMBIE HEARTS, shirtless. As for why... I mentioned the shirtless part, right? He is the bad boy with attitude and a heart of gold, and I am the old lady with a cougar crush. I’d make him wash my car. Really. That’s all I’d ask him to do. 

TKA: Now that The White Rabbit Chronicles is wrapped up, do you have plans for any future young adult novels?

Gena: I will be launching a brand new YA trilogy next year (2015) and I’m sooo excited. In fact, I’ve never been so excited about an idea, or a series, or a group of characters.  Scenes have been flowing through my mind continuously for over a year, and I’ve been keeping notes. Thank the good Lord, I know exactly where to start, where to go, and how to end!

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Author Tip of the Month

Nalini Singh is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty-five novels, including her latest release, ROCK ADDICTION.

A manuscript doesn't have to be flawless first time around. I've spoken to so many writers over the years who get frustrated and stalled because they can't make the story flow perfectly in one go. If I could make a book perfect in one go, I'd dance naked on Main Street! (Not reallyI might scare someone.)

The first draft doesn't have to shine—it's like an artist's clay barely given form. Then you take out the editing tools and hone the words, shape the narrative. So skip the section that's holding you back, and keep going; get that first, raw draft done. You'll be surprised at how, when you come back to that difficult part, you'll often have either worked out a solution, or will be well on the way to it.

One caveat: working this way will speed you up, but it also means you have to be disciplined about doing multiple drafts to smooth out all the rough patches. It may work for some, and not for others. But hey, why not try it and see?

For more information about Nalini and ROCK ADDICTION, be sure to visit

New Releases

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